‘Biblical plague’ remark sparks calls for Nottinghamshire councillor to resign
Calls have been made for a councillor to resign after controversial comments he made comparing travellers planning to attend a horse fair in Nuthall to a ‘biblical plague’.
Conservative councillor Philip Owen made the comments last week, ahead of a planned horse fair on land just off the M1.
Now, a formal complaint will be made about his comments, and calls have been made for him to resign as a councillor.
He was also asked to apologise for the comments, but did not, and said his comments had started a debate on the issue.
The comments were made last week at a meeting of Nottinghamshire County Council, and have been widely criticised by opposition councillors.
At a meeting of Broxtowe Borough Council on Wednesday evening, July 17, the leader of the council announced he would be making a formal complaint to the county council.
Labour council leader Milan Radulovic called the comments ‘vile’ and ‘racist’.
The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Councillor David Watts, said: “The comments of Councillor Owen, describing travellers as a biblical plague, were extremely unhelpful and disappointing.
“It doesn’t matter whether it is the President of the United States or a councillor from Nuthall, racism and racist comments are simply unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
“Given that local authorities have a statutory legal duty to promote community cohesion and to combat racism, Councillor Owen’s comments fundamentally undermine his position, and in the absence of a full and unconditional apology from him, the only proper action is to resign.”
Councillor Owen, who represents the Nuthall East and Strelley, replied: “It is relevant and pertinent to raise genuine concerns that are passed on to constituents.
“In raising those concerns it has opened up an avenue of discussion, which perhaps would not have been travelled along had those comments not been made.
“It would be helpful if people who wish to criticise me – of which there are a number – would actually criticise me on the points as I raised them not as they perceived them to have been raised.”
Councillor Radulovic then said: “What I find most objectionable is that I don’t think you even regret what you said.
“We all say things that we genuinely wish we hadn’t an hour later or a week later, and we all feel sorry if it’s caused any hurt or shame, except one person.
“As a person who has suffered from racist abuse, had numerous death threats made against me, I find racism and racist comments totally unacceptable, whatever form they take.
“They are totally and utterly unnecessary, and if you have to resort to that sort of vile language to express your fears on behalf of your residents, then I think you’re doing your residents a terrible disservice.
“I intend to write to the leader of the of the county council to express my concern about these comments, and the fact there was no apology.
“Action should be taken against Councillor Owen for vile, derogatory racist comments that I fear have done absolutely nothing to allay the fears of residents and in my opinion has made the situation very much more difficult.”